Alan Taylor,

Thor: The Dark World smashes it and asks anyone else? - Thor: The Dark World Review

Thursday, October 31, 2013 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

Thor The Dark World ReviewWriting this post is bitter-sweet for me. Sweet because Thor: The Dark World is pretty damn awesome and I loved it! If you read my thoughts on Kenneth Branagh's previous Thor film over here Thor Review & Maybe I’m Getting To Old For This you'll know I enjoyed some aspects of the film but wasn't blown away, in fact I was a little disappointed. In the run up to its release it did appear that Thor: The Dark World was going to address my particular set of qualms with the Thor and when it came to delivering the goods - it did.

Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World UK Poster
Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World UK Poster ZOOM
Countdown to Thor: The Dark World Countdown to Thor: The Dark World
Thor Review Thor Review
Iron Man 3 Review Iron Man 3 Review
But this post is also bitter because, well I've read comics since I was a kid and I am a diehard DC Comics fan. Over the years I have defended DC Comics' films in the face of Marvel's increasingly more entertaining offerings. I was insulted when Max Landis pitched The Death and Return of Superman by telling me that I didn't care about Superman. I was mortified when Marc Millar said DC's characters were over the hill. But I still hung in there knowing that DC will hit their stride soon - but  Thor: The Dark World gives further evidence that my faith may be misplaced.

I concede that in making Man of Steel Zack Snyder faced many of the same problems that Kenneth Branagh may have faced making Thor, he had to wow us, meet fan expectations and keep non comic readers entertained as well as introduce a much loved character in an engaging cinematic format, but if Alan Taylor can make a film that hits all the right notes about a god who lives in a rainbow fantasy land with *unicorns and fights elves! ELVES dammit! With a hammer no less! Based on ancient Norse mythology how did they manage to make Man of Steel so uninspiring? It's not a good sci-fi film and at best a rehashed mediocre super hero tale.

Thor: The Dark World picks up directly where Avengers Assemble ended with Loki in Thor's custody and returning to Asgard to face their father Odin and in a similar way to Tony Stark having to deal with the aftermath of the annihilation waves of Chitauri attacking New York, Thor is having to deal with the consequences of events in the first Thor film which left Asgard isolated and unable to police the Nine Realms which are falling into chaos and war.

Thor: The Dark World Thor (Chris Hemsworth) & a Kronan fight
Thor: The Dark World Thor (Chris Hemsworth) & a Kronan fight ZOOM
Well actually if you read Marvel's two part comic prelude to Thor: The Dark World cleverly entitled Marvel's Thor: The Dark World Prelude 1 & 2  the story of  Thor: The Dark World actually starts just after the events in the first film and takes us through the action of Avengers Assemble from the previously unseen Asgardian perspective and brings us up to the opening moments of Thor: The Dark World. It also explains how Thor (& later Loki) are able to travel between the realms after the Bifröst Bridge was destroyed, where Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) was during Avengers Assemble, the fate of the Bifröst Bridge & the Tesseract and references Game of Thrones at least once. Its some 60 pages are worth a read to fill in the gaps.

The Establishing Shot: THOR: THE DARK WORLD TRAILER - 30 OCTOBER 2013

Anyway back on Earth Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is trying to move on without Thor but with the help of Darcy Lewis (Kat Dennings), her new intern Ian Boothby (Jonathan Howard) and Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) in what should be the most cliched forced plot device from comic books, but works in the film Jane unknowingly becomes embroiled in a chain of events that puts not just her back in danger but all  of the nine realms and and everyone in them.

Thor: The Dark World Prelude Thor: The Dark World Prelude
Thor: God of Thunder Thor: God of Thunder
Thor #32 - Forever Kursed Thor #32 - Forever Kursed
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
Marvel’s "Thor: The Dark World" continues the big-screen adventures of Thor, the Mighty Avenger, as he battles to save Earth and all the Nine Realms from a shadowy enemy that predates the universe itself.  In the aftermath of Marvel’s "Thor" and "Marvel’s The Avengers," Thor fights to restore order across the cosmos...but an ancient race led by the vengeful Malekith returns to plunge the universe back into darkness.  Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

The highlight of the film for me was the tone. It's darker. Gone is the charming cocky arrogance copied from Iron Man, it has been replaced by something more befitting of a domain with immortals of immeasurable power. I hasten to add it's not overly dark, there are lots of moments of levity, nay hilarity. Quips are punchlines are dropped with perfect timing and delivery by each of the actors and not to take anything away from the rest of the cast but Tom Hiddleston seems to have been born to play the role of the mischievous Loki Laufeyson. The film has a tone much more suited to an epic tale involving a dysfunctional hierarchical family of gods (led with a iron glove) that oversees realms of gods and fantastical monsters.

There is also less pop out postcard style cinematography, with the first film, and again I concede that it is important that the grandeur and cosmicness of Asgard be established for long time fans and newcomers but with Thor, I got a sense that like a baby staring up at its toes rather than the larger world around it - the film-makers were keen to show how great the CG, 3D and other world elements all dovetailed and whilst it looked great, with Thor: The Dark World this has been streamlined and seems only pertinent if it moves the story forward which allows more focus on storytelling and characters.

Thor: The Dark World return to Asgard
Thor: The Dark World return to Asgard ZOOM
Whilst the story is pretty simplistic in hindsight, the magic of the experience is that the engaging characters, spectacular CG otherworld sets (particularly the interiors of the Asgardian architecture) and spectacular visuals along with the evenly paced roll out of the story draw you into the rich imaginative world of Thor that each new scene is thrilling to watch and you are never sure where the story will go.


Which brings me nicely to the pacing. Look I should not like Thor: The Dark World - its too fantastical and there is a lingering thought in the back of my mind along the lines of - how on earth can anyone make a film that can capture all of the glory and madness of Thor's world ? But as with Joss Whedon's Avengers Assemble they make it work and it all comes together beautifully. I can't breakdown how it all works so well, possibly; part charismatic personalities, part great performances, part sharp script, part fantastic visuals and probably part dragon teeth and bat wings. All I know for sure is that it comes together in a compelling way and now that Branagh's Thor has set the groundwork everything flows more fluidly.

Regarding performances which are another strength of Thor: The Dark World I think Branagh's Thor did the heavy lifting so we have an idea of who most of the characters are and they don't have to work at establishing themselves, they can get on with bringing personality to who they are.  Thor may look more like a lithe metrosexual male than the muscular war forged god of thunder but Chris Hemsworth is immanently watchable and there is chemistry between Hemsworth and Natalie Portman's Jane Foster. Credit to Portman for bringing Foster to life with personality, it would have been easy to play the role as the damsel in distress but Portman owns the role and Foster carves equity out for Jane in the Thor universe.

Thor: The Dark World Loki (Tom Hiddleston) & Thor (Chris Hemsworth)
Thor: The Dark World Loki (Tom Hiddleston) & Thor (Chris Hemsworth) ZOOM
But the real chemistry of the film is between Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston's Loki, in fact Hiddlestone almost steals the show as he has all the best lines and seems to have the most interesting role in the film as, Thor is left to his strengths – smashing things and never giving up. Loki has bigger plans and is constantly maneuvering elements for his own advancement. And there are scenes where it is a pure joy to watch the brothers in arms.
Thor: The Dark World Zachary Levi FandralThor: The Dark World Ray Stevenson VolstaggThor: The Dark World Idris Elba HeimdallThor: The Dark World Jaimie Alexander Sif

Jaimie Alexander - Sif, an unrecognisable Zachary Levi - Fandral, Ray Stevenson as a slimmed down Volstagg and Idris Elba as Heimdall all stand out in their relatively small roles building credibility for the fantastical tale.

Thor: The Dark World Malekith (Chris Eccleston) arrives
Thor: The Dark World Malekith (Chris Eccleston) arrives ZOOM
Despite being covered in makeup and special effects both Christopher Eccleston and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje bring menace to their portrayals of the memorable lead antagonists. Thankfully there is no posturing or soliloquies of how clever they are and how their grand plan is going to roll out – they just get on with the business of destroying everything and being evil bad asses with intent.

But they are all overshadowed by the powerhouse performance that Sir Anthony Hopkins delivers as the authoritarian all father. Despite his relative lack of screen time his performance is straight out of a historical epic and brings real gravitas to the Thor Universe.

Thor: The Dark World Thor (Chris Hemsworth) & Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins)
Thor: The Dark World Thor (Chris Hemsworth) & Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) ZOOM
All in all Marvel Studios have done it again and created movie magic, making Thor: The Dark World a highly entertaining experience with a more appropriate dark tone to balance the customary Marvel humour.  And whilst I may have not have felt like jumping out of my chair and cheering when Thor flew into battle - there are elements that recreated the feeling of exhilaration I had when I was a kid reading about the imaginative worlds in the comics - as well as bringing a whole lot more to the party.

* There may not actually be any Unicorns in Asgard

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Idris Elba, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Kat Dennings, Ray Stevenson, Zachary Levi, Tadanobu Asano, Jamie Alexander, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins. Marvel’s “Thor: The Dark World” is directed by Alan Taylor, produced by Kevin Feige, from a story by Don Payne and screenplay by Christopher Yost and Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely and is based on Marvel’s classic Super Hero Thor, who first appeared in the comic book “Journey into Mystery “ #83 in August, 1962.

Thor: The Dark World Slideshow

Thor: The Dark World in cinemas 30 October 2013 
Faced with an enemy that even Odin and Asgard cannot withstand, Thor must embark on his most perilous and personal journey yet, one that will reunite him with Jane Foster and force him to sacrifice everything to save us all.

Director: Alan Taylor
Writers: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston

“Thor: The Dark World” is presented by Marvel Studios. The executive producers are Alan Fine, Nigel Gostelow, Stan Lee, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso and Craig Kyle. The film releases in the UK on October 30, 2013, and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.